Most Americans have most likely heard of the heroic and important contribution to the war effort in WWII carried out by the Navajo Code Talkers. Their development of radio codes in their own ancient Dine language was never broken by the Japanese and proved to be one of the most effective instruments in the American successes throughout the war in the Pacific. They were instrumental in maintaining a secret communications superiority over the Japanese and in the final defeat of the Japanese in the Pacific War.
What most Americans may not know is that there were code talkers who served in both Europe in WWI and in Europe and the Pacific in WWII.
There have been warriors from 33 Native American Tribes who have served as code talkers. And the first recorded use of Native American code talkers was on Oct. 17, 1918 in WWI. The amazing thing about this piece of history was that this was only 24 years after the Battle of the Little Bighorn, where Sioux, Cheyenne warriors, in an effort to keep their freedom and their sacred lands, defeated General George Armstrong Custer’s 7th Cavalry units toward the end of the long so-called “Indian Wars.”
It may seem ironic, but there is no other cultural or ethnic group in America that has given a higher percentage per capita of service to the United States Military than the many Native American tribes. Native American People are proud of their service and continue to serve with pride today. Though they were not made citizens of the United States until June 2, 1924, they have a distinguished history of military service even before that, as exampled above.
In 2000, the Navajo Code Talkers were honored with the Congressional Gold Medal for their immeasurable contribution to the success of the war in the Pacific during WWII. They and the many other Native Americans who were code talkers during both WWI and WWII took great pride in honoring the oath of secrecy they took to protect the knowledge and codes that they developed during those wars.
Follow us on Instagram
Get deals on patriotic items from The Veterans Site store each week!
Many Tribes of Code Talkers
According to Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado, who chairs the Committee on Indian Affairs, there were 32 other tribes involved in these secret code talker efforts during both WWI and WWII. They have not been as formally recognized as the Navajo Code Talkers, until now. The following is a list of many of those tribes whose warriors served as code talkers:
- Sac and Fox
- Seminole and others
These are tribal peoples from all corners of our country. Many of you readers will recognize those that are local to your areas. I wrote recently about the five Tlingit code talkers from Alaska.
The last surviving Lakota code talker, Clarence Wolf Guts, who you will see in the video, passed away in 2010.
He said of his service: “I am a full-blooded Indian, and we do whatever we can to protect the United States because we love America…We used our own code and we did whatever we could to protect our country.”
Having lived for four years as a kid in the state of South Dakota, I was familiar with the tribes that are loosely called the Sioux in English. But there were many bands/tribes of Lakota and Dakota peoples. Together they are the Oceti Sakowin tribal group. They include:
- Oglala Sioux
- Rosebud Sioux
- Cheyenne River Sioux
- Lower Brule Sioux
- Crow Creek Sioux
- SIsseton Wahpeton Sioux
- Flandreau Santee Sioux
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe has the largest number of members who served as code talkers for any Native American tribal group, including the Navajo.
The Veterans Site honors and sends its deepest respect to all Native American warriors who served as code talkers in both WWI and WWII. Your courage and your genius in using your own languages to advance the war efforts against both German and Japanese tyranny can never be thanked or appreciated too much by a grateful nation.
We will never forget what you have done in service to the United States of America.
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.